It’s an age-old question: which comes first, the proposal or the presentation?
While I can’t help with any existential chicken-egg questions, I can help with this one. In this post, we’re going to compare proposal software with presentation software, specifically PowerPoint.
On the surface, these two kinds of software seem like comparing apples to oranges. But since so many people use them for the same purpose—creating and presenting business proposals—the comparison is justified.
Why? Because millions of people around the world use them to pitch to clients and dazzle them with impressive visual presentations. One has been around for decades, while the other is the newer kid on the proposal presentation block.
PowerPoint’s power lies in the focus on visual presentations using a templated slide deck. Proposal software starts from the other side, with a well-designed proposal template that can be customized and then presented.
Ultimately, we want every business to be using the software tool that helps their sales team kick ass and take names (to follow up with). So I wrote this honest comparison of how presentation software like PowerPoint stacks up against proposal software, including Proposify.
The goal of this post is for you to walk away with the knowledge you need to assess which type of software best meets your sales team’s needs.
What is PowerPoint?
Introduced in the 1990s as Presenter, PowerPoint is currently used by more than 500 million people, including businesspeople, teachers, and speakers, to create visual presentations using slides that combine text, graphics, and other media content.
It’s ubiquitous. PowerPoint has been around for decades, which means many people are already familiar with it and many businesses already have a Microsoft Office subscription that includes a PowerPoint app.
It’s ubiquitous. With millions of people using PowerPoint and its templates, it makes it hard for individual presentations to stand out. Customization can be tricky and can make your organization seem like it’s behind the times or not focused on the client experience.
Most PowerPoint users cite the pre-formatted templates, speaking notes, and ability to convert their .ppt files to PDF as their top features, as well as the ability to present a visual narrative to prospective clients.
On the flipside, users find it difficult to collaborate and share presentations internally. Users can access a shared file library, but find that it tends to get disorganized and if the storage amount is exceeded you need to pay for extra storage.
While PowerPoint handles the presentation requirements, other sales documents like quotes or contracts need to be created separately to close the deal.
While the presentation part may look good, many PowerPoint users say that emailed PowerPoint files or exported PDFs can get caught in spam or exceed the allowed attachment size for certain email clients. Presentations, whether in PDF or .ppt form, need be sent with additional sales documents like contracts and/or statements of work to close the deal.
Support and training
Phone and online support is available with certain Microsoft Office subscriptions. Due to its widespread use, there are also many user-generated forums, YouTube how-to videos, and other peer-to-peer help.
PowerPoint integrates with other Microsoft products and other visual-based apps and software, like chart and diagram maker Lucidchart.
Reporting and tracking
None. Once the file is sent, there’s no way to see if the client received it, opened it, or, if they viewed it, how much time they spent with it.
Many PowerPoint users note that the tool can’t be purchased as a standalone, and must be bundled as part of a Microsoft Office software package.
A basic package that includes PowerPoint starts at $6 per user, per month.
What is proposal software?
Proposal software, also referred to as proposal management software, helps sales teams efficiently create, present, send, and track business proposals.
The proposal software industry is forecasted to more than double between 2019 and 2024.
Proposal software allows sales teams to create, present, customize, track, sign and collect payment all within one tool and interface. Proposals are easy to send via a dedicated link in an email, which doesn’t get caught in spam filters. Plus, while the internal workflow is efficient for the sales team, the end product still looks impressive on the client side.
Unlike PowerPoint, there usually aren’t any flashy animations available for transitions between slides. And more powerful features might mean a bigger learning curve and longer ramp-up time for sales teams starting fresh with proposal software.
For the proposal creator, proposal software helps make workflows more efficient, including the opportunity for internal collaboration and approvals. An organized content library makes it easy to create a high volume of proposal presentations quickly, especially when multiple templates are set up. For example, an event services company might set up a template for each type of event they offer that their reps can then customize for the specific deal.
Though the strength of proposal software is best felt in its online version with interactive elements and a presentation mode, proposals may still be converted to PDF if a leave-behind or other printed version is required.
Proposal software-based presentations look impressive to big-ticket clients due to design-based templates. Proposal software also allows you to include interactive features, like pricing tables where clients can customize their spend and a table of contents that lets them jump directly to any section they want without having to page through the entire presentation.
Support and Training
Support is key with a time-sensitive task like proposal creation and dedicated proposal software means dedicated proposal support.
Email and chat support are the most common ways to get specific questions answered. Phone-based support can be another option as well. These support channels go hand-in-hand with self-serve options like a detailed knowledge base and/or blog.
Proposal software is known for its integrations with other business software that helps close deals and stay on top of sales.
For example, Proposify supports more than 30 integrations, including Salesforce and payment processing through Stripe. Plus customers can use Zapier and the Proposify API for extra integration power to streamline the workflow and maintain consistency.
Reporting and tracking
Metrics and analytics are the backbone of proposal software. They can track the prospect’s interaction with a proposal, something that a .ppt turned PDF can’t show.
These metrics and notifications let you and your sales reps know data points like when the prospect opens the proposal, how many times they view it, and which pages they spend the most time on.
For sales leaders, proposal software metrics can help them stay on top of their deal pipeline by tracking ACV and where proposals are within their deal stages.
Most proposal software is billed on a per user basis. For example, Proposify plans for sales teams start at $49 per user per month.
There are a few factors that influence the total price of your proposal software investment, including:
- Features and integrations
- Onboarding and training
- Templates and asset set-up
- Priority support
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Thinking about switching from presentation software to proposal software? Read this success FAQ first
Nick Burdock, a customer success manager here at Proposify, breaks down what you need to know and answers PowerPoint users’ most frequently asked questions about moving their proposal creation process to online proposal software.
How can I transfer my PowerPoint slides to proposal software?
Transferring your proposal from PowerPoint slides to proposal software pages isn’t as intimidating as it might seem.
There are even some similarities in how pages are set up. In proposal software, you can add text and visuals boxes with placeholder details and prompts so everyone using the template will know how to fill them with content.
You can also set up your template to have common PowerPoint details like repeaters. Use headers and footers to include your logo or the prospective client’s company name at the top and/or bottom of each proposal page.
This seems more complicated than PowerPoint. How do I keep my sales team from messing it up?
The good news is that sales leaders can have more oversight via pipeline, dashboarding, and metrics within the proposal software. You can sync it with your CRM to maintain a single source of truth for client details.
And I always recommend that admins set up user roles and permissions so proposal creators only see the content and areas they need—nothing more or less.
Adding controls to your account means less worrying about people overwriting templates with their own stuff or going rogue. Your content library can be set up with pre-approved copy snippets and images that your sales team places into the static templates.
Plus, if you don’t want to go it alone, a success manager like myself can help out with all this, including setting up documents and reusable content, implementing controls, and hooking up any integrations.
What if I still want to present my proposal?
When you or your sales rep is ready to present, switch to presentation mode. This option resembles a PowerPoint presentation by removing any distractions and focusing on a visual presentation of the proposal pages.
That way you can show them the flashy visuals and then send over a document for sign-off that also has the less-exciting (but necessary!) pricing details and fee tables, contracts, terms and conditions, and electronic signatures.
What about transitions and animations?
Our presentation mode doesn’t have flashy animations to usher in each slide. But don’t you want to wow them with your proposal instead?
Seriously, though, you can still move smoothly between pages in presentation mode—just without ‘flying’ or ‘bouncing’ into each one. The editor allows for great design that matches your branding and you can bring in all the images, videos, charts, and other media you’d like.
Okay, once I’ve presented, how do I send it to the prospect?
Proposal software is a complete proposal tool. Basically, you can make a proposal, present it, send it, and get it signed all in one.
Instead of hacking the process by creating a PowerPoint, turning your PowerPoint into a PDF, then adding an electronic signature tool to it for sending to the client, with proposal software you can simply exit out of presentation mode and send the proposal via a link in an email.
When the client clicks on the link, they can view the proposal and sign with the electronic signature box you included.
And here’s another plus I point out to my customers moving from presentation software like PowerPoint: with proposal software, you can create an interactive table of contents. That means prospects don’t have to flip through the entire document if they don’t want to. The page or piece of information they’re looking for can be accessed in one click.
Ultimately, it’s up to you and your sales team whether to use presentation or proposal software.
If you’re comfortable with Microsoft software and don’t have many supplemental sales documents to create, PowerPoint might be the proposal presentation product for your sales team.
That being said, if you’re looking to streamline your proposal process and enhance your team’s collaboration and sales doc workflow, an all-in-one tool like proposal software could be the answer.
You can explore all the features proposal software offers, including electronic signatures, interactive pricing options, custom templates, and video, with a Proposify free trial.